Cognitive flexibility, which refers to the brain’s ability to switch between mental processes in response to external stimuli and different task demands, seems to begin developing during the first two years of life, which is much earlier than previously thought. UNC BRIC researchers led by Weili Lin, PhD, used magnetic resonance imaging techniques to show the emergence of a functional flexible brain during early infancy.
Cognitive flexibility refers to the ability to readily switch between mental processes in response to external stimuli and different task demands. For example, when our brains are processing one task, an external stimulus is present, requiring us to switch our mental processes to attend to this external stimulus. This ability of switching from one to another mental task is the cognitive flexibility. Such flexibility can predict reading ability, academic success, resilience to stress, creativity, and lower risk of various neurological and psychiatric disorders. To shed light on the development of this critical cognitive process during early infancy, researchers at the UNC Biomedical Research Imaging Center (BRIC) at the UNC School of Medicine conducted a brain imaging study in infants to examine the emergence of neural flexibility, which refers to the frequency with which a brain region changes its role (or allegiance to one functional network to another). Neural flexibility is thought to underlie cognitive flexibility… Continue reading.
Researchers in the UNC Early Brain Development Study tracking the development of the brain’s emotion circuitry in infancy found that adult-like functional brain connections for emotional regulation emerge during the first year of life. And the growth of these brain circuits during the second year of life predicted the IQ and emotional control of the children at 4 years old, suggesting new avenues for early detection and intervention for children who are at risk for emotional problems.
These results were published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging. …… Co-authors of the study were Andrew P. Salzwedel, PhD; Rebecca L. Stephens, PhD; Barbara D. Goldman, PhD; and Weili Lin, PhD… Read the full article.
Few people can say they have turned their favorite childhood hobby into a career. But Weili Lin still spends his days taking pictures, just as he did as a kid. Only now, the images he captures are of the developing brain, not rocks and dragonflies.
Lin, director of the Biomedical Research Imaging Center (BRIC), uses his passion for photography to devise innovative approaches to capture the body’s internal structures.
“There are so many different parameters you can play with, just like when you take pictures you can adjust the parameters to see things in a completely different way,” Lin said.